G20 summit disappoints world media

Image caption,
Under pressure: US President Barack Obama

The media in some of the world's main economic players have been strongly reflecting their own countries' interests in their coverage of the G20 summit that ended in Seoul on 12 November.

The Chinese press voiced fury at perceived US attempts to devalue the dollar, while in Russia, there was praise for moves to boost emerging economies' voting rights at the IMF.

Indian papers focused on relations with Britain and Delhi's bid for a UN Security Council seat, and German commentators praised Chancellor Angela Merkel for rebuffing US initiatives to counter trade imbalances.

Everywhere, however, there was a strong sense that little of substance had been achieved on the underlying problems of the world economy.

Currency war

Chinese press comment on the G20 summit on 12 November overwhelmingly focused on sharp criticism of US monetary policy and Western countries' approach in general.

In an article in the Communist Party paper China Daily, the head of China's central bank, Xiao Gang, attacked the US Federal Reserve for seeking to devalue the dollar by starting a second wave of quantitative easing (known as QE2), and urged the Americans to return to the spirit of cooperation during the crisis of 2008.

"The US needs to refrain from the QE2 policy," Xiao said, warning against a "currency war in which there can be no winner".

A report in the Communist Youth League newspaper Zhongguo Qingnian Bao (China Youth Daily) accused the US of "igniting war" at the G20 with its quantitative easing. "The summit is facing a situation where conflicts of interest are reaching an unprecedented white-hot state, and an exchange rate war is strongly testing the sincerity of countries to cooperate with each other", the paper said.

Many commentators said the US' behaviour highlighted the need for global regulation of countries' fiscal policies. "The world should come up with a powerful tool to bridle the US dollar and the people managing it," an editorial in the English-language state paper Global Times said.

Commentators, however, were also relieved that anger at the United States' quantitative easing had blunted what was believed to have been a planned US-led assault on China's perceived reluctance to allow its currency to rise substantially.

No breakthrough

One of Russia's main pro-government channels, NTV, gave the impression that the summit had been good for Russia, focusing on comments by President Dmitriy Medvedev that he was "satisfied" that a "plan of action for the near future" had been passed.

Medvedev was also shown saying that the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are now "confidently making progress" within the G20.

However, a report in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said summit was "closing on a pessimistic note". "No concrete measures to prevent currency wars have been adopted," the paper said, blaming disagreements between the US and China.

In the Indian press, coverage of the summit was low-key in nature, with reports restricted to the business pages.

One paper to devote extensive coverage was the business daily The Financial Express, carrying the story on its front page, along with a special report inside that said the summit would "ink a new world order with emerging power houses like India and China".

Economic Olympics

The consensus among the French media was that little of substance had been achieved. France Inter radio spoke of "good resolutions", France Info of "no last-minute miracles" and "declarations of intent", while Radio France Internationale said there was "no significant progress on either currency rates or trade imbalances".

Europe 1 radio was more positive, saying that "G20 leaders are still on the same wavelength to work together for the prosperity of the planet".

On RTL radio, one correspondent compared the G20 to a disorganized Olympics. "Each team comes to defend its flag, with the difference that the Olympics have their rules whereas at the world level, there aren't any rules for organizing this vast economic competition," the reporter said.

Fighting elephants

In Germany, an article headlined "Merkel puts the brakes on Obama" in the Frankfurter Rundschau daily reported that the country had joined other export-heavy economies like China and Japan in blocking a US proposal to put a cap on trade deficits.

Die Welt praised Merkel for "fighting valiantly against protectionism". While acknowledging that Obama had "good reasons" to criticize Germany's trade surplus with the US, the daily said the German leader was showing "far-sightedness" in viewing the US proposals as the a slippery slope towards protectionism.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agreed. "The chancellor is right: The US demand that limits be put on balance of payment surpluses does not tally with a free global economy".

In South Africa, the Business Day daily was downbeat, predicting an inconclusive outcome as a result of disagreements between the US and China. "An old proverb says: 'When elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers.' In this case, smaller developing economies such as South Africa are likely to be in the foliage."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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